These are the voyages of the awarding organisation, Training Qualifications UK: to explore strange new sectors of training, to seek out new areas for qualifications, to boldly go where no AO has gone before.

We’re entering a new era in space travel. Similar to the Age of Discovery, state-funded explorations of new frontiers are slowly being overtaken by private companies. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Who knows!

Some people call this transition a dangerous abdication of responsibility by government-funded institutions like NASA. Others call it a broadening of horizons by opening up the areas of space travel to new ideas and new funding. But there’s one thing we do know – the times are a’changin’.

It’s not like this is new. A handful of private companies, including Boeing, Virgin and Blue Origin, have been investing in commercial spaceflight in low earth orbit. Basically, transport and tourism. (Cue entrance of the tourism qualification creation team!)

However, today the investments of all these companies were overshadowed by the significant advancements made by PayPal co-creator, tube demon and AI prognosticator Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Yesterday, SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. Falcon Heavy has the ability to lift nearly 64 metric tons into orbit: a mass greater than a 737 jetliner with passengers and crew. As a comparison, Falcon Heavy can lift twice the payload of the nearest operational vehicle, the Delta Heavy, at one third of the cost, according to SpaceX’s website. These things engines can produce a stupefying 5 million pounds of thrust, equivalent to that produced by eighteen 747 aircraft. (I believe the technical term for that amount is, a lot.)

SpaceX currently flies cargo missions to the International Space Station in their Dragon capsule, and is currently in the works to create an era of easier, relatively cheap space travel, including rocket-based earth flights that could do globe-hopping trips from New York to Dubai in 29 minutes. Perhaps to emphasize the company’s dedication to making space travel more accessible, Musk has promised to send two undisclosed individuals on a private flight to the moon sometime in 2018. The company’s vision is to eventually restore the possibility of flying a manned mission to Mars.

That all sounds great. The reality of yesterday’s launch, though, is a bit more...odd.

Rockets take things into space, right? Right. SpaceX did put something into the rocket to take up. The object will stay attached to the rocket’s upper stage, peing belted by intense radiation in the Earth’s Van Allen belt, before detaching on a course towards Mars. You’d think such an object might be something heavy with symbolism. And perhaps it is. SpaceX decided to send a £100,000 Tesla Roadster into orbit, with an empty spacesuit buckled into the driver’s seat, DON’T PANIC blazoned on the dash and “Made on Earth by Humans” on its circuit board.

We like that.

Most space launches are muted and solemn affairs, emphasizing the gradual progression of engineering prowess and the baby-step accumulation of knowledge.

SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon Heavy has something of the absurd and carnivalesque about it. Images of the car taken from space have something of the Californian, top-down-convertible-driving-west-on-Sunset-Boulevard-to-better-horizons feel to it. What better image for progress can there be than one of the planet’s most expensive cars floating in the infinite vacuum with the half-earth in the background? None.

TQUK identifies with the kind of personality that would put that roadster into orbit. We have been inspired by the Musk.

As a result, TQUK has begun development on the TQUK Level 6 Diploma in Space Travel and Low Orbit Survival (RQF). This qualification will include units on Van Allen Belt Roadster Repair, Space-Based Mars Travel, Knowledge and Awareness of Hot Re-Entry and Prevention of Space Dementia. TQUK is excited to venture into this new area of qualifications in this brave new world of accessible space flight.

To keep up to date with TQUK’s progress on our new space travel qualification, return to our blog, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

See you out there (in the Cosmos)!